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Plant a Tree, Save the Planet

Plant a Tree, Save the Planet

Spring is here and the earth is coming alive, which is why the green-home builders at Tommy Williams Homes think April is a great month not only to celebrate Earth Day this week (April 22) but also Arbor Day next week (April 30). A great way to do this is to plant a tree.

Earth Day was created in 1970 by Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson to increase awareness of and education about environmental issues. It is now celebrated around the world in 193 countries.

Arbor Day goes all the way back to 1872, when Julius Sterling Morton, a member of Nebraska’s State Board of Agriculture wanted to remind people of the value of trees. A newspaper editor, he proposed an annual holiday to encourage people to plant trees. His wildly successful idea resulted in more than one million trees being planted in Nebraska alone on April 10 of that year.

The value of trees

Besides providing shade and timber, trees counteract global heating, reduce air and water pollution, and create homes for thousands of species of plants and animals.

In 2019, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021-2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, an effort it said could remove up to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

This initiative was backed by a 2019 Swiss study, which found that planting roughly one trillion trees would remove nearly 830 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That’s equal to the amount of human-produced carbon pollution over the last 25 years.

“This is by far—by thousands of times—the cheapest climate change solution,” as well as the most effective, study co-author Thomas Crowther, a climate change ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, told the Associated Press (AP).

Of course, the UN, the Nature Conservancy—which has a goal of planting a billion trees across the planet—and other similar organizations are concerned mainly with reforestation. But every newly planted tree counts.

How to select the right tree

In addition to helping the environment, trees add value to your property. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension program offers some tips on how to select the right tree for your yard.

Drive around the neighborhood and see which trees are doing well in our environment and which ones appeal to you.

Consider such classic southern natives as:

  • magnolias
  • live oaks
  • crape myrtle
  • ash
  • eucalyptus
  • pine
  • maples
  • citrus

Make sure your yard is large enough to support the bigger varieties once they reach maturity. And check with your HOA to make sure it allows planting large trees on your property.

Basics to plant a tree

Once you’ve found the tree you want, consider placement in your yard. Look over your landscape and check for power lines and other obstacles that might be a problem once a tree is full-grown. Also, consider whether roots will interfere with underground utility lines. Before you dig, call 811 to have utility companies mark out their lines for free (usually within three days).

Take into account the size of the mature tree:

  • Will it brush against the house or other structures?
  • Will it drop fruit or leaves in a pool or on a sidewalk or driveway?
  • Is it going to block desirable views?
  • Will it be a hazard if it falls during a hurricane?

Then get to work.

Dig a hole about twice the size of the root ball, and slightly deeper. To break up heavy clay soil, fill the bottom of the hole with compost.

If the tree is rootbound, especially if the roots are growing in a circle around the root ball, it’s crucial to slice off the circling roots. If you neglect this step, the roots will continue to circle around as the tree grows, rather than spreading out into the yard. With no root structure to support the tree, it will eventually topple over.

Be sure to set the tree into the hole at the same level it was in the container. If the tree was balled, make sure the root crown (where the trunk meets the roots) is two inches above the ground. Then backfill with the soil you removed, making sure there are no air pockets in the hole. Also, leave a slight indentation in the soil to help direct the water to the tree, rather than have it run off and away from the roots.

Finally do not mulch near the trunk! This will block sunlight and water from reaching the roots. It also encourages the roots to grow up into the mulch instead of the surrounding soil. It can also foster pests and diseases around the tree. If you must mulch, keep it at least six inches away from the trunk.

Depending on the weather, water when the soil between four and six inches deep is moist, not soggy. Do not let the soil dry out.

Remember, if you’re interested in sustainable living, you’ll want to see our full line of net-zero homes, featuring intelligent design, responsible construction, and cutting-edge energy efficiency. To learn more, contact us today!

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